Felicity Huffman, Kay Jewelers, and Motherhood

You might be wondering what these have in common. Well I’ll tell you – they involve one of the most striking myths of new motherhood: that it is the best and most wonderful thing ever in the entire world and that all your dreams and hopes will have come true and you’ll wonder how you ever lived before this beautiful new life came to be. I mean, how many times I have I heard my mommy friends talk about how fantastic motherhood was…and just weeks in to their new babies’ lives?All I can say to this is – what are you guys smoking, and will you please share?

I am sick and tired of the lie that mothers will or should fall in love with their babies, or their new lives as mothers, immediately. I know I haven’t, and it’s made me feel like a complete failure these past couple of months. I was reminded yesterday by my therapist of this interview on 60 Minutes, in which Felicity Huffman stated that motherhood was NOT the best experience of her life. Leslie Stahl was taken aback by her answer, and Felicity was subjected to a backlash in the media for her comments.

Also check out this Kay Jeweler’s commercial. I wanted to throw the remote into our TV this Christmas every time this damned thing came on. In what fucking world does this actually happen? Our Christmas morning looked nothing like this. Instead, it was composed of me and the baby crying, covered in spit-up, barely showered, gifts unopened, and constantly interrupted iChats with the family. Nobody was happy, or peaceful, and nobody looked that good. It was not a wonderful Christmas. In fact, it sucked big time.

It’s not like I don’t care for my child, but right now it feels much more like an instinctual impulse than actual love. I feel the need to feed, clothe and comfort this new little life. I’m not necessarily doing any of it because I want to. I want to sleep. I want to work. I want to remember what it’s like to eat dinner with my husband in the evenings, to have a conversation with him, to not wonder when our alone time is going to be interrupted by the sound of crying.

Listen, I’m sure that motherhood is going to be wonderful, eventually. I’m sure I’ll fall in love with this little new life that Hubby and I have been blessed with. And I’m sure that having a child will become fun, at times, and not just a complete suckage of all my energy. But, for now, that’s just not the case. To quote my doctor, “A newborn baby is more of a lump that demands all of your time and attention, and gives very little back. Why should you instantly fall in love?” It takes time to fall in love for most people. You have to get to know the person, learn who they are, and, right now, our little one remains a mystery. He’s cute, but he also cries a LOT. He makes some really funny sounds, but we have no idea what they mean. He makes some great and interesting faces, especially when he’s pooping, that make Hubby and I laugh, but he can’t smile or laugh back at us.

Not that some mothers don’t have an instantaneous understanding of what has happened to them when they give birth, but I’m still trying to figure it all out. While part of this might be due to postpartum depression, I have a feeling this sentiment is shared by many more new mothers than just myself. In fact I know it is. I’ve talked to soooooo many people, in the blogosphere and IRL, who felt just as overwhelmed, confused, and guilty as I have. But nobody ever tells you that it’s okay to wonder “what the hell did I get myself into” for the first few months. Why not? Because they’ll be ostracized for being a terrible mother.

So I’m saying it now, and hopefully a few to-be moms out there will listen and remember it when they give birth. It’s okay to not immediately fall in love with your child. You’re not a terrible person, and you’re not a terrible mother. You’ll eventually get there, it just takes time. I have faith in this. I see it when my mom looks at me. And I know I’ll start to look at our little guy the same way… sometime very soon I bet.


15 thoughts on “Felicity Huffman, Kay Jewelers, and Motherhood

  1. I'm sorry that you've been having such a rough time. It sounds awful.

    On the other hand, this post has made me feel a lot better. I worry about whether or not I'll love the wee one instantly when s/he is born. And I worry a lot about what it'll mean if I don't. So, thank you for helping to alleviate some of my anxieties.

  2. I don't remember emotionally loving my first for the first six months. When he got more independent and interactive, he turned from an obligation to a source of joy. I remember that he was to me a responsibility, a challenge, obligation, life-as-we-enjoy-it ender. I felt like I just had to dig in and get “it” done (kinda like my Calculus classes in college).

    It DOES get better. It really does.

    Luckily, the bodymind (that was intentional) takes care of us in that the awful feelings don't stay deep in our memory, at least didn't for me. Hang in there. We're all rooting for you out here.

  3. It's the joy of being a woman. If you do anything you must enjoy and appreciate it 100% of the time or you're a failure. There's extra pressure for mothers because no one likes to hear that raising their ungrateful asses was a one-way trip through Hell with the occasional trip for ice-cream with sprinkles. No, it must have been Glorious, All The Time.

    There are plenty of parents still looking for the return label as they drop kiddies off at college. That doesn't mean they are bad parents, that doesn't mean their kids won't be happy and well-adjusted. It means it wasn't their most favoritest thing ever, and there's nothing wrong with that. But our culture makes out like it's the greatest crime. It's ridiculous and puts undue pressure on new moms.

    I wish you the best in this new year, Dr. O!

  4. The first several months of raising my twins were really difficult too. The reasons were different, but I sympathize with your struggle. It will get better. Not perfect (my 5 year old threw an epic tantrum when I picked her up from kindergarten yesterday), but better. Or at least, the struggles will be different.

    One thing I tell myself is that if I were truly a bad mother, I wouldn't worry about whether I was a good mother or not.

    Hang in there.

    (P.S. I post as Cricket42 at LabSpaces)

  5. @Amanda – Don't get me wrong, there have been good moments, ones that make me smile and even laugh. The hard part was expecting something so much more magical than it ever could be. You'll do fine, just keep your expectations to a minimum…and you might even be happily surprised by how soon you fall for your little one. 🙂

    @Gerty – Love that video. Amazing though how some of the comments berate it so much…as if everyone who has children goes in with realistic expectations. Not that it will be easy, but that how much you love your child will make it immediately worthwhile.

    @Arlenna and LabMom – Never saw the birth post, Arlenna; thanks for linking it. But I've read the other two posts. Funny thing – I didn't take away the message when I read them, at least not completely. I don't know if it was because I kept hearing how wonderful it was going to be and how I would love this little life from the first moment. Or maybe my depression (which I really believe began prenatally) kept me from putting things into perspective. I'm glad others have been posting similar sentiments, though…if only Johnson and Johnson could drop that stinkin' Silent Night commercial.

    @Hermitage – thanks for dropping by, and Happy New Year to you, too!!

    @Julie/Cricket – Really like the comment about worrying if I am a good mother or not.:)

  6. I remember feeling this odd mix of love and hatred during my first few months with my first baby. I did in fact love her. I couldn't stop kissing her fuzzy little head. (What is it about baby heads? They are so kissable!) But I hated a lot of things about my life with her. A LOT of things. I remember feeling like such a failure, not only because I couldn't get her to sleep or calm her down reliably when she freaked out, but also because I wasn't blissed out. I didn't really know who I was anymore. I hadn't integrated “mother” into my identity, I felt more like my identity had been entirely subsumed into “mother”.

    Baby #2 was sooo much easier. Partly because she is just a way more mellow little soul. But I think mostly because I'd already done the work of becoming me again, a full-fledged human who also happens to be a mother. And also because I had irrefutable proof that the gawd-awful sleep deprivation of babyhood ENDS and for me, getting sleep makes all the difference.

    I agree with @Arlenna, it takes a long time to really feel like you have it together as a mom. And I think that is nothing to be ashamed of. It is hard!

  7. My husband's adviser gave us this book when we had our kiddo. http://www.amazon.com/Operating-Instructions-Journal-Sons-First/dp/044990928X
    I read it in the first month or so of sitting around nursing and it really captures the feelings I was going through. I really did love my baby but it was sooo hard to keep my shit together. We went through days of both of us just crying for hours. I also remember cursing and swearing at her in the middle of the night when I was beyond tired and frazzled.

    I appreciate your honesty and feel that less women would struggle if more were honest (this goes for many subjects, not just being a mom)

  8. the first months were tough. i thought that people were INSANE to have 2 kids. now that my little one is 10 months, I am actually starting to think of #2. motherhood is truly fun (if exhausting) now.

  9. “But nobody ever tells you that it's okay to wonder “what the hell did I get myself into” for the first few months.”

    Oh, Dr. O. How I wish I could tell you it was only the first few months. My son is 7 months old and I just said to my husband the other night as we dragged our sorry asses into bed, “You know? Sometimes I really miss not having a baby.”

    The following night my husband said “I love him, but as of right now I changed my mind – I don't think I want any more kids.”

    See, the thing about the older babies is they get into a routine and you breathe a sigh of relief. “Aaaahhh…..predictability. THIS is nice.” And then just as you get comfortable with that routine, BLAM! They fuck with you and start doing things all backwards and opposite and screwed up.

    Like going from sleeping 9 hours at night every night to waking up every 2 hours for no. apparent. goddamn. reason.

    Or going on a nap strike.

    Or one day after you thought the spit-up finally started to slow down, they puke on you every single goddamn time you pick them up.

    Yes, they get cuter with their laughs and smiles and coos and you will find your heartstrings firmly attached to their little tushies. That's because evolution did its job so you wouldn't give your child away to the pygmies.

  10. Thanks for stopping by JLK! Now that Monkey is starting to get his sleep sort of under control, Hubby and I have started ourselves that he'll eventually catch us off guard. I won't say we're ready for it, but at least we know it's coming.

    That's because evolution did its job so you wouldn't give your child away to the pygmies.

    I just wish evolution selected for smiles a little earlier – I was starting to look for some pygmies a couple of weeks ago. 😉

  11. Pingback: Why I’m not a badass mommy-scientist | The Tightrope

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